“Meet the Patels” is a rom-com worth watching. I know, I can’t believe it either.
It’s not often you hear the words worth watching after the words rom-com, unless the word not is somewhere in there. This however, isn’t your typical run of the mill product of the genre. The story follows Ravi Patel after a break up with the only real girlfriend he has ever had, Audrey. Caught at a cultural crossroads wondering if “a redhead from Connecticut” is really the girl for him. The film captures a little over a year in Ravi’s life as he travels to India and around America looking for an Indian girl to fit the notion of the ideal girl he had while growing up and to satisfy the image his parents still have. The “love triangle”, so to speak, between Ravi, his parents, and the girl of his dreams is fun to watch.
One of the biggest complaints I find in most films today is that directors don’t really try anything new, or explore a new or less common way to tell a story. Often times doing so adds a nice twist and creates a unique viewing experience. While Ravi acknowledges that the camera work of his sister, Geeta Patel, who directs the film, is shoddy and shaky, the directing was top notch. I love that they chose to tell his story in this documentary style rather than reformatting the story to a more conventional means. Most people shudder at the thought of a documentary, because the name connotes a two-hour long narrative about some boring thing you don’t care about. These two tell an amazing story without a dull narrator. They really push the boundaries of what a documentary can be.
You see what filmmakers and producers have been trying for the past two decades to achieve from reality TV and from romances in film. You see real heartbreak, real pain, and especially real emotion that words on a paper rarely captures. Although Ravi is an actor by trade, you can easily tell his words are genuine and from the heart. The same goes for Geeta when she adds her perspective to mix. Combine that with black and white animated interludes where he tells his story like it is really fills in the gaps that the camera doesn’t capture. Even though the camera work kind of gives a home video feel at times, it never gets too shaky or annoying, like in a ‘Cloverfield’ kind of way. Geeta does find a way to capture most details, including dates. She also finds this perfect mix of filming the experience in a non-invasive way, while still knowing this is from a camera’s point of view. You get the feeling like you’re right there in the film following Ravi on his journey as Geeta did.
Last year’s ‘Boyhood’, arguably the best film of that year (no argument here, it clearly was), was so spectacularly wonderful because of how real the story was. What you get here is another very real story about love, loss, and the process of everything in between. On top of all of that, there is an extremely relatable character in Ravi. Anyone of Indian descent or is a first generation immigrant can understand and relate to Ravi and his sister’s life and their upbringing, which may seem a bit strange to some. Even if you don’t relate to the two, I have yet to see or hear of a better film that explains the culture in such a comical and fun to watch way.
It’s a great story from beginning to end and one worth watching several times. It’s sure fire crowdpleaser. Ravi and Geeta Patel have created a film with a very original story in a very original way. If you’re looking for a truly good and honest movie, then this is the one for you and if you’re not, you’re missing out.
Meet The Patels hits theaters on Sept. 11.